A Practical Explanation of Qi Gong Development

[pullquote align=”right”]Qi gong is a vehicle for us to navigate between esoteric and tangible progress.[/pullquote]





Let’s start with a great definition of Qigong and then discuss what role qigong plays in your tai chi development.

Dr. Gayl Hubatch, in Fabric of the Soul, sums up the process of qi gong development nicely.  “Coordinating breath, intention, and movement increases energy flow.  Increased energy flow is healing and restorative.”   Eloquent and simple.  We engage in tangible, understandable activities (moving, breathing, intention) and reap health benefits.

Qi gong DevelopmentHere is what makes qi gong development difficult:

  • It is normally a far cry from any medical advice we have ever received.
  • While the activities are easy and enjoyable, developing sensitivity to identify what is going on internally takes a while.  Without knowledge of how qigong is developing you internally it is easy to abandon because “you don’t feel like you are doing anything.”
  • It is esoteric.  Let’s be blunt.  We are talking about moving “energy” around a body we feel pretty familiar with.  Not something I did during high school PE.

Explain qi gong development with enough western perspective so that I buy-in and keep practicing.

The tissues and fluids of the body are made up of minerals and chemicals with magnetic properties.  The earth is a magnetic field and food and air also serve as energy.  We can perform activities to alter blood flow and temperature which interacts (matches) the earth’s properties.  These properties are closely aligned with what we conceive of as healthy.

Practitioners of tai chi are normally pretty open to anything.  They hear of qigong and want to feel what is described and begin by being quite hopeful.  With an understanding of the full developmental progress we can stop doubt from creeping in.

Developing the Energy of Qigong

I am going to provide a spectrum of development based on my interactions over the years.  Insert yourself into this paradigm and see what’s to come.

[table style=”1″]

Let’s Bake a Cake
Turning the oven onA practitioner is brand new.  Their interest is piqued and they are just learning to relax into a meditative stance.
The oven is heating upProgress at relaxation allows the energy to move around the body correctly
All the ingredients have been foundThey are interested to new terms like dantian and are actively trying to use them
The ingredients get mixedThey can think about their center when meditating and have an understanding of keeping their hip joints, arm pits, lower back soft.
The oven beeps and is hot enoughA different sort of warmth, from the inside exists after practice.  It is general and fleeting
The ingredients are one big blob and enter the ovenThe body moves collectively or in order from the center out
A quick initial rise happensIntention on the hands or dantian yields a perceivable heat that goes away
A long time passes and the cake brownsWe work to try to make this feeling come back and it does at times.  Our overall relaxation and higher body temperature come quicker
We check it with toothpicks and send it back in for more timeWe can warm our hands and loosen our center easily.
Time for frostingWe can create and feel energy and can bring it to one spot within the body if we concentrate on the spot
Time for decorationWe can move the energy in specific directions, alight on a space and move on to another


Qi gong development is a silent conversation with your autonomic system

I hope this playful explanation hints at the huge amount of foundational work that you are benefiting from when you “don’t feel anything.”  We are talking about interacting with autonomic processes and being able to affect your health, literally, from the inside.  Of course this process shouldn’t be quick or easy.

Scott Prath

Scott has been practicing and teaching tai chi and qigong since 2000. He is a lead instructor for the Austin Chen Tai Chi Association. His interest in the internal martial arts began after traveling in India and Nepal, and he has since traveled to China to train. Scott has published over 100 articles on tai chi with a focus on research showing the benefits of practicing.

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